What I’ve Been Up To & Why I’ve Been Quiet

Hey you guys!

…you’re still here, right? My silence hasn’t scared you away?

Oh good.

Hi. 🙂


I suppose I would summarize it as:

ANXIETY

+

[parenting, freelancing, blogging, body, social media presence]

=

What I’ve been up to & why I’ve been quiet


So yeah.

The kids were away for a week a couple of week ago, visiting Jesse’s mom and stepdad. The break let us rest and reset our routines and priorities.

I introspected (as I do). I realized that the more burnt out I had been feeling as a mom in lockdown, the harder I was leaning into my Instagram account and, especially, leaning on my community there for support and company.

Which is good…

But the more I leaned into my Blushy Ginger-ing, the more I was feeling disconnected from the kiddos, and it wasn’t helping my burnout on the mom front.

So when they got home, I became very quiet online, left my phone in other rooms of the house (gasp!), and just focused on spending time with them.

Which Is good…

But the more I leaned into “being the best mom I can be,” the more I was feeling disconnected from my support system online. It might be hard to believe if you don’t do the online thing, but the friendships I’ve made online with other mental health and motherhood writers and creators have been huge sources of comfort and encouragement.

So… I’ve been having kind of a crisis of clarity and balance.

Obviously the kids are my world, my priority, my snuggly little cupcakes of cuddles and giggles. But I do still need my own time to use my brain and work on my mental health.

I’ve been having trouble finding balance.

So, I went quiet online, especially on my blog.


I’ll save the freelancing and body parts of the equation for another post.

I just wanted to give a little update.

Oh, and I redesigned my site, yet again. This time, it’s to bring my freelancing services under the same umbrella as my mental health blogging. I’ll chat about that soon too. 🙂

Thanks for still being here.

Reconnecting With My “Why” as a Mental Health Blogger

When my grandmother passed away in August 2018, I wrote a post about her for my old blog. In that post, I mentioned that I think she experienced anxiety. The way she wrote about interactions with others makes me think it may have been social anxiety to some extent.

I’ll never know first-hand what it was like to experience anxiety or depression in generations past. I can speculate that it was a lonely, confusing road.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I even learned there was condition known as social anxiety disorder. As for “depression,” it was a term I was vaguely aware of, but I assumed it was the kind of thing that happened to other people, and that I was far too resilient for such things.

I was probably depressed at the time.

I was definitely anxious.

I definitely suffered from low self-esteem and rock-bottom self-worth.

But I am so lucky.

I am so lucky to be a young(ish) adult(ish) in 2020, to be part of the movement away from bottling up feelings and keeping a stiff upper-lip. To be part of breaking down mental health stigma. To be going through my own recovery amidst mental health advocacy, eating disorder awareness, and basically a collective cry to stop beating ourselves up about EVERYTHING.

It’s only a start; voices are joining the chorus but for many, still, mental health is an obscure topic, and personal challenges are secret and shameful.

But even as I recognize how lucky I am, I hurt as I wonder… What about my grandmother? What about other family members who have also suffered from mental health challenges that went undiagnosed, unvalidated, and most importantly, untreated?

I’m generally a mental health optimist, but when I think about how many people have lost so much from untreated, and sometimes self-medicated, disorders… it’s hard.

At the end of my blog post about my grandmother, I wrote:

I will help tear down the walls of stigma and ignorance so that my children—your greatgrandchildren—have access to even more resources and support than I do now, and you ever did.

This was written before I felt the need to have an explicit “purpose” for my writing or for sharing my journey.

But when I came across it in my drafts a little while ago, it stuck with me. Just a little niggle in the back of my mind.

This week and last, I’ve been struggling a lot with what I’ve started calling “purpose anxiety.” I’ve been wrestling with the question of “why” I’m putting myself out there and whether it “matters.”

Today, finally, it hit me that I’ve had a “why” this whole time, without consciously realizing it.

That statement was my why, before I really knew it.

  • I’m writing for my grandmother.
  • I’m writing for my daughter and my son.
  • I’m writing for me.
  • And I’m writing for you.

Even though I may never know that “you” have read this. All I can hope is that some parts of my words impact some of the many people who need to feel less alone.

Is it too grandiose to hope that today’s voices can empower the voices of tomorrow?

I guess I don’t need a specific path plotted out. I don’t need to worry so much about how to make the perfect impact all the time. I can’t save the world with every post — and probably not with all my posts combined, either.

And that’s okay, in the end. This is a group effort, right?

I just need to show up and let my voice join the chorus of mental health and self-compassion advocates out there today who are saying:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • Check on your friends.
  • Give yourself some grace.
  • You are not bad.
  • You deserve to heal.
  • Recovery is possible.
  • You are not alone.

I think that’s a pretty good “why.” 🙂

Peek Inside an Anxiety Flare-Up & Moment of Self-Doubt

I’ve written myself into a bit of a pickle, I’m afraid. My overarching goals for this blog are candidness and encouragement. Good, great. Those are good goals.

But what happens when those goals are suddenly at odds? What happens when being truthful means I have to share things that are not exactly inspiring or fun to read?

Do I cross over to new territory, and share the hard stuff while the hard stuff is happening?

That’s sort of where I’m at today.

Share or no?

Freeing, but scary.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

I don’t discuss my depressive symptoms much, partly because they are less frequent, and partly because I haven’t had much specific treatment for them, which means I feel much less able to share tips and advice. And I also lack the vocabulary to express my symptoms clearly.

I did get a diagnosis of persistent mild depressive disorder at the same time as my social anxiety diagnosis two years back, but my mood has been really stable for a long time lately.

But sometimes, seemingly out of the blue, my mood will nosedive. I don’t just mean I feel a little “blah.” I mean I feel like a piano has fallen on top of me, but slowly. This is what I’ve been dealing with since Saturday night.

Resist urge to hermit

But… so cozy…
Photo by William LeMond from Pexels

I don’t really *want* to share this, because when I have phases like this, my inclination is to retreat, hibernate, and pretend everything is okay when I do communicate with others.

I hate to be a bother. I hate to be a drag. I hate to worry people.

But I don’t want to do pretend anymore.

I don’t want to just blog when things are easy, but let my blog go dead when my mood is low.

And I don’t want my “candid” blog to really only be candid when I’m happy. That really defeats the purpose of what I’m trying to do here.

How it feels

Get that bowl of encouragement away from me, lady.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

My mood is low. So low that my chest feels heavy, and also hollow, like it could cave inwards.

My brain is very, very foggy. I’m lethargic. I’m very irritable.

I did miss my dose of sertraline on Saturday, which is unusual for me, but I’m skeptical that I would feel any effects this quickly. (I took last night’s dose.)

Times like this

At times like this, my mind goes to things like, “What do I really bring to my family, other than the ability to robotically go through the motions of life?”

At times like this, I feel like my struggles with anxiety and depression aren’t just restricted to my inner world. They hurt my friends and family. I hurt my friends and family.

At times like this, I feel a little foolish for feeling so optimistic about my “journey.” I see how far I still have to go. How much emotional rubble I’ve left in my wake.

Basically, at times like this I get very melodramatic and doomy-gloomy.

But this time will be different

I just want to feel like this all the time. Is that so much to ask?
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

There is, actually, a faint silver lining.

This time, I know it will pass.

This time, I know I will feel better when the clouds lift.

This time, I know I get to see my psychiatrist in a couple of days.

This time, I’m not hiding.

The more you know

Life will not feel like this forever.

That certainty is greatly comforting to me. (I don’t *feel* comforted, because I don’t really feel anything right now, but in my mind I *know* this is comforting.)

Don’t hate me; I can’t bear it

I hope this doesn’t come across as wallowing in self-pity (I’m not wallowing, maybe just dipping my toe a bit), or fishing for sympathy, or crying for help.

And if you’ve interacted with me recently, please don’t think my mood is the result of anything you did or said or didn’t do or didn’t say. That’s just not how these episodes work.

I’m really okay.

I mean, okay, I’m not okay, but I know how to become okay again.

I just want to share the hard parts, too. Otherwise what’s the point of a mental health blog?

Be kind to yourself

I’ll take this opportunity to say that if you’re struggling today, I feel you. I really do. Let’s send each other good vibes and go easy on ourselves, k?

You dog. Me cat.
Photo by Snapwire from Pexels

Let’s try to think of how we would want our best friend to treat themselves if they were feeling low — and let’s try to be a little like that with ourselves. (I know, I know, I REALLY don’t want to either. That’s the mood talking, though, not you.)

15 Things I Want You to Know About Anxiety Recovery

My brain is a wee bit battered and fried after today’s therapy session, so I thought I would try my hand at a list-type post and see what you think. 🙂

Here are 15 of the many things I’ve learned on my mental health journey. I hope they help, and feel free to ask questions in the comments!

  1. Progress is possible.
  2. Everyone progresses at their own pace.
  3. Everyone has different areas of focus.
  4. Regarding therapy, you don’t have to know what you need help with before you seek support. (It’s their job to help you figure that out.)
  5. Feeling anxious doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong or that something is wrong around you. It doesn’t mean you have to do anything to “fix” or “police” the situation.
  6. Try not to judge your insides based on someone else’s outsides. (This one comes from my mother-in-law, actually.)
  7. Think about the incredibly high standards you have for yourself. Who do they truly benefit? What would happen if you lowered the bar and let yourself breathe?
  8. You can be anxious and have fun at the same time. Anxiety can coexist with positive emotions and experiences.
  9. A lapse is not the same as a relapse. You’re never truly back to where you started, because that’s in the past and you aren’t a time traveller. (Or are you?)
  10. Don’t beat yourself up if you do stumble. Self-condemnation is toxic and is more likely to undo healing than it is to “push you” to greater success.
  11. Progress is about learning to tolerate feelings of anxiety so that those feelings become less powerful. It’s about learning to say, “Hey there, anxiety, I see you. You’re not in charge anymore, but I’m not going to pretend I don’t see you.” Anxiety doesn’t go away by pretending it’s not there.
  12. It’s not about reaching some “perfect” fantasy version of yourself. It’s about learning how to accept yourself as a whole package. I couldn’t truly progress until I shed the belief that I was “bad until better.”
  13. You are not bad. You are not weak. You are not alone.
  14. You deserve support.
  15. It’s never too late to feel better inside.

I hope you find these encouraging as your tackle you own anxiety or mental health mountains (and molehills, because those are tricky too sometimes, especially if you are a mole who is also lost in the mountains).

Is Being Candid the Same as Being Vulnerable?

Happy Wednesday, everyone! 🙂

I wanted to start with a quick little thank-you note to a fellow blogging family (www.ourdidjourney.com) that I met recently online, who wrote a really, really, really generous and validating post about my blog and my writing. You can check out the post here: Up and coming; The anxious powerliftin’ Sadie. (Blushy Ginger). Thank you guys — for seeing what I am trying to do, and in some ways articulating it more clearly than I have been able to myself. And for just being fun and friendly generally.

For the past week or so, I’ve been mulling over the difference between candidness and vulnerability.

I realized that while I don’t balk at candidly sharing the details of my social anxiety journey, that’s not exactly the same thing as being truly vulnerable.

This is true for me in real life, too. I’m candid in conversations about so many things. I’m not afraid to talk openly about mental health or sexuality or the weird things our bodies do. (Provided the person I’m talking to is not put off by those topics.)

But to be truly vulnerable? To share my unfiltered, un-curated thoughts in real time? To show raw, messy, potentially unpalatable FEELINGS and reactions?

I think it’s rooted in fear. Fear of rejection, fear of conflict, fear of disapproval. Fear of losing control over myself. Fear of what others might think if they meet the Unfiltered Me — because I don’t even know who that is.

Social anxiety is so, so much more than “shyness.” It’s a barrier between me and the world. Between me and YOU.

And the barrier has been there for so long that it has been internalized. It’s become an internal barrier between me and myself.

And I’m tired. Tired of the constant tug-of-war between my true desires and the disorder that stifles them.

Maybe it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t crave connection with others. If I didn’t yearn for creative expression. If I didn’t still have a feisty little redhead trapped somewhere inside me.

But I do. I do.

I want those things.

I hesitated to write such a heavy post. I like to be positive and encouraging. But I should probably be real, too, right? Vulnerable.

And so, the journey continues. My weapons of choice against my struggles are insight, resilience, and hope — but the proactive kind of hope.

(Ah, there’s the happy ending I was looking for. Hope.)

Why I Write About Social Anxiety Even Though I Have Social Anxiety

Is there an inherent irony or contradiction in sharing your struggles with social anxiety online?

If not, why do I find it so much easier to publish my experience into the void than to go out among the humans and have real-life people interactions?

I have a theory:

No, not that theory. But that’s the kind of thing my inner critic once made me fear others would think. That’s why I held back from writing for so long.

But eventually, the desire to create, to write, to connect with digital humanity, to help others (if I may dare to dream) — those forces overrode my fear of sharing this part of my life.

And since that moment when I decided to just go for it and write about life as a socially anxious hu-mom, and all the moments since (because being brave is not a one-and-done decision), I’ve felt powerful.

I have the power to write about social anxiety and connect with you, the dear readers who choose to spend a few minutes of your day reading my posts. Speaking of which…

Hi, new readers!

(Me.)

I’ve been so pleased to see quite a few new followers since my post went up on Ashley’s site yesterday, so hi and thank you and welcome!

I’m still figuring out my posting schedule and writing tone (I like funny writing but I’m afraid that if I try too hard for funny I’ll end up just writing an endless series of bad dad jokes or is that my social anxiety talking and my impostor syndrome acting up probably shush you).

And I’m still trying to gauge whether it’s more interesting (for me and for you) and helpful (for me and for you) for me to do journal-style super-intimate posts or more polished, article-type posts.

So it will be a work in progress. And that’s okay.

Soul-searching (but they say gingers don’t have souls… so that’s a problem)

I had a mini-epiphany this week when I realized that in my attempt to make THE BEST BLOG AND INSTAGRAM FEED IN EXISTENCE, with endless philosophical and earth-changing and orbit-shattering revelations, I was holding back the parts of myself that might be what make me a likeable and relatable human.

Like my dorkery and geekery and inability to be scandalized (try me) and goofiness and insatiable desire to please people that is constantly at war with what feels like my failed duties to live up to the stereotype of the feisty red-head AND sexy librarian at the same time.

So I will attempt to care a little less and a little more about how I come across. I don’t have to solve the world’s social anxiety in every post. Or any post.

This post is a pretty good example of social anxiety’s inner tug-of-war

And that, my friends (you’re my friends right? be my friends please), is social anxiety in action.

It’s like a blanket of angsty self-judgement that gets set on fire and thrown over you any time your real, not-so-meek, not-so-polished self tries to peek out of its meerkat hidey hole. (There is NO way I’ll find a GIF to capture that image.)

Final thoughts

So, now to actually answer the question, “Why do I write about social anxiety even though I have social anxiety?”

Here’s my actual, sincere answer:

I think it’s because social anxiety really isn’t a personality trait. It’s not who I am. It’s who I seem like, to myself even, sometimes. But it’s a barrier to the real me, a filter, rather than the true person.

Does that make sense?

I’m delaying ending this post because it’s fun and liberating and scary to write like this.

Byeeeee!

Are They Shy, or Is It Social Anxiety Disorder?

… It could be both.

I never used to know about social anxiety. All I knew was “shyness.” It took me a long time to learn that they aren’t synonyms, even though they are similar.

Shyness and social anxiety can be confusing from the inside, so I can imagine they must be even more puzzling and vague for friends and loved ones.

My “in a nutshell” explanation of the difference between the two would be this:

I am a shy person who also has social anxiety.

One is something I am. The other isn’t.

This is the simplest way I can think to express how the difference feels from the inside.

You can have shy people with social anxiety. And shy people without social anxiety. And even people with social anxiety who aren’t shy at all.

Shyness is not a disorder, and social anxiety is not a personality trait.

The reason it’s confusing is that it’s not an either/or situation. Shyness lies on a spectrum, and so does social anxiety, and there are areas that overlap between the two.

Then why does the distinction matter?

Because it’s liberating.

It was so freeing when I finally understood that shyness is part of my personality, but that social anxiety is a disorder.

It reassured me to know that I can work on my anxiety issues, and hopefully resolve them in time, without needing to change who I am as a person.

I’m not sure if any of this is reassuring to someone from the outside looking in. Just know that if you are puzzled by a loved one who may be shy or diagnosably socially anxious or both, you’re not alone, because chances are that person is very confused about it all too.

Understanding all this helped me finally be okay with my shy nature, which in turn freed me to focus on easing the symptoms of social anxiety, which is helping my relationships with others.

I still have moments where I wonder, “Am I even shy at all, or is it ALL social anxiety?” Mostly, though, I’m actually kind of proud to be shy.

But it took a long time to get here.

I hope your shy person finds their way here, too. 🙂

(Maybe you could leave a trail of chocolate along the path.)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!